If Atheism is Unsatisfying,
Why Don't You Just Believe?
First, I would like to say that all Atheists ought to be proud who are able to stick to their beliefs and values despite being condemned by so many groups.
I do have a question, however. It's not one of those "change your beliefs now!"-type questions, but I'm curious: Why argue something that, if you are right, would be utterly depressing?
Let's say that there is no afterlife. If I spend my life believing that there is one, and I wind up not existing, well it wouldn't really make a difference. But if I spent my life believing that there isn't one, and there is, well I'd look pretty silly.
I would just get no satisfaction thinking the worst of a situation. Proving to everyone that I am about to lose my legs wouldn't make me any happier, but naïvely believing that I would keep them only to lose them in the end wouldn't really make me feel that much worse, only I had hope to keep me going before that.
The same is true with Christians believing in Hell. That's just silly in my opinion. But, this is all my opinion anyways. Whether there is a deity or an afterlife or not isn't in question, that's for the individual to decide. I'm just wondering why you would choose not to believe, when being right would ultimately be unsatisfying?
Thanks for any response :)
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Trevor McDonald"
Subject: Re: A question
Date: June 06, 2004 21:57
I'm just wondering why you would choose not to believe, when being right would ultimately be unsatisfying?
Let me just start by mentioning that there's something to be said for believing a proposition because it's true.
Besides, I have discovered that during those times when I have been (or appeared to be) on the brink of death, my mind still naturally occupied itself with the matters that remain here. I did not find myself beginning to imagine (or worry about) what it may or may not be like for me after the moment of death. Rather, when my candle had begun to flicker, it seemed all the more that my brain would wonder things like, Who will take care of my loved ones after I'm gone? What will happen to my work and my possessions? As the reality of death looms, the luxury of pondering such subjects as claims for an afterlife all the more evade my grasp: my mind tends to consider the more mundane subjects.
This is how my mind works when my shift is hittin' the fan. This is not something I try to do, this is just how it happens to work out. When I finally wrote about it, in my column titled, "I Can Think of Life, and Nothing Else" (January, 2002), I concluded that my mind does not occupy itself with death because life is the only state that I know. My mind is simply incapable of seriously considering anything other than the only reality that I have ever experienced.
During those times when I have the luxury of pondering what I will, then I can imagine these things and many others. I can even become quite distressed, as I have mentioned numerous times on this Forum. But imagination is not what happens when the reality of my own mortality has me in its grip.
And I still don't know how she pulled it off, or what was on her mind, or anything (I wasn't raised with a religious background), but a former friend's wife suddenly and very quietly announced to him that she'd recently joined him in his atheism! This happened during her late 60s or so. She was so happy! Why? She found a great deal of relief in her new-found atheism simply because she no longer had to deal with the prospect of an afterlife. And she was thinking about "Heaven" rather than "Hell"! Go figure! I don't pretend to be able to understand this, but this is precisely what her husband told me!
Finally, given that the deities currently being discussed are, to a man, what we call "hidden," I don't think I'd look very silly for going along with the best evidence, which is, that either "God" is playing "Hide 'N' Seek" with humankind, or that the "God" being claimed is the object of much mythmaking on our part.
Whether there is a deity or an afterlife or not isn't in question, that's, for the individual to decide.
No, I disagree: whether or not there is, in fact, a deity is the entire question, here.
However, this is not a question that I have raised. Others raise the question, but the question happens to be whether or not any of the religionists' claims that a deity exists (or that multiple deities exist) are truthful claims.
... why argue something that, if you are right, would be utterly depressing?
Who is arguing? Sometimes people write in and make this or that claim. At such times, I'll tell them what I think about their claim. But you won't see me logging on to religious web sites and badgering their readers on the boards and such.
I have absolutely no reason to grant assent to the claims of the religionists. For the most part, not even their moral values impress me. There are a few exceptions, but even then, being religious has no advantages that I can think of except that it provides one with a faux community from which one might be able to find a few friends. That's it. Life simply is. My value as a human being is based upon the fact that I have a skeleton and a pulse. Apart from the sheer fact that I am alive, I don't need to possess or to accomplish anything in order to know that my value as a human is limitless. (At all times, mine is the final word as to my self-worth!) But at this point, all talk about self-worth becomes meaningless, "out of context," as I so often hear in this Forum! I love my life in spite of the setbacks I've been dealt, not only lately but throughout my life.
I'm simply trying to mind my own business! I have no interest whatsoever regarding the claims and fantasies of religionists.
I wish they would leave me the fork alone!
But they do not, they will not.
... if I spent my life believing that there isn't one, and there is, well I'd look pretty silly.
That's fine and well, but why tell me about it? I'm not spending any time or energy "believing that there isn't" an afterlife: that is not something that I have ever done, really. As I have tried to point out in every Reply to every Letter we've received on the subject, I do not sit here and think about the claims that religious people make. What people like this think is not a subject that interests me. It means less to me than does the question of which product offers a woman the greatest freedom during those days of discomfort. You might say I'm entirely indifferent to the specific claims of the world's various occult practitioners. In other words, I don't give a rat about religion!
For the Sake of Discussion
But let's assume for the sake of argument that your presupposition were true, that one cannot be happy unless one believes in an afterlife (which is the assumption behind your question, by the way): Why would somebody buck against the notion of an afterlife? Why not simply claim to believe?
The answer, for me, is very simple: I follow truth wherever she may lead. If I were to try to claim that there is an afterlife, I would be lying to people, because I don't know that there is such a thing. If I say that an afterlife exists when the truth is that I don't have reason to bel